UV Mineral Lights
Rock collecting is a cheap hobby.
Fluorescent rock collecting is an expensive hobby.
The mineral lights needed to prospect for our magnificent glow rocks are expensive, and serious lights are only available from a few manufacturers. There are many different kinds of lights out there; some are simply not suitable for fluorescent mineral collecting. They are usually the cheap alternative and the buyer will be greatly disappointed. For reference, an example of these types of lights is listed at the end of this page.
If you are new to the hobby you might want to learn more about UV and the various light sources (shortwave, midwave, longwave, blacklight) before diving into the review.
You can expect to pay >$240 for a reasonable portable shortwave field mineral light, and powerful home display lights can be a thousand dollars or more. There are lower cost entry level lights which will allow you to play around and learn - see if this hobby is for you. But expect to invest some money in serious lights if you catch the glowbug.
Entry Level Lights
There are many entry level lights on the market. Prices range from a few $ to a ridiculous price of $150. Some are simple 4 watt blacklights. Some are garbage 390/395nm LEDs. Some low-power shortwave lights might be a way to see if you're really interested in the hobby before dropping several hundred dollars on a real light (but anything over $75 merits serious thought about a real light).
Be aware that the really cheap ones are.... cheap. Fluorescent tube blackights are longwave and really replaced by LED flashlights - fewer fluorescent minerals are found using a blacklight. Unfiltered shortwave lights are garbage.
The small 4W/6W/11W shortwave lights are very low power and will only light up a small area, in spite of outlandish claims of UV power. Some have ridiculously low-power LW/SW bulbs, and filter windows so small you'll be lucky to light up a stamp.
These lights are economical but really only "toys". If you get bitten by the "glowbug" you will soon be looking for a high-end mineral light.
The first SW light most people own is a medium power, portable shortwave field light. Battery powered, they are used to go collecting at night, at shows, club meetings etc. While there are a few low-end lights which will marginally do the job, if you're serious about collecting there are only a few companies who offer lights made for today's hobby.
365nm longwave LED flashlights are a must. Note that these lights must have a UV pass/visible blocking filter - a must for any light used with fluorescent minerals - even LED lights.
Convoy C8 365nm Flashlight
This light is the next generation Convoy - the Convoy Redesigned. It offers almost 3 watts of UVA output (radiant) and is unbelievably bright. Currently the best LW flashlight on the market.
Convoy S2+ 365nm Flashlight
A new, amazing, and affordable LW flashlight, the Convoy S2+ - replaces the need for a portable fluorescent LW light. More information in the "Equipment" section of the GlowNotes Blog. If you want a high-power UVA flashlight, this comes highly recommended. (around $22)
Shortwave and Midwave Flashlights
New in 2022 are offerings of SW and MW flashlights - 255nm and 307nm. Although relatively low power they are an excellent step forward. Stay tuned for many new products to be offered in this arena.
High wattage lights (AC powered) are used to illuminate large collections, museum displays, and other types of mineral displays. The same manufacturers who offer portable field lights also sell a complete line of the high-powered lights. Learn with your portable field light (the place to start) and apply what you've learned when it comes time to spend $700 to $1,500 on a big light...
The ones NOT to buy
Cheap, unfiltered shortwave lamps - Garbage!
Ebay is filled with SW lamps for $15 to $25 that offer up the world of fluorescence for pennies on the dollar. These lights are UNFILTERED and completely useless for the fluorescent mineral hobby. They will often be shown with a specimen of willemite/calcite from Franklin NJ and you will see a washed out glow from the rocks. That's about the only rock you'll be able to see any fluorescence in, and even those wonderfully bright fluorescent specimens will appear washed out. Even worse, some have photoshopped pics of our rocks with their lights, as if the light was causing the fluorescence.
Bottom line - if you don't see a filter on the light (a dark glass allowing only a purple/violet light to escape), don't waste your time. Our UV lights generate a lot of visible light in addition to the UV. This light must be filtered by UV pass, visible blocking filters. These filters are the most expensive part and many unscrupulous (or uneducated) sellers try to sell lights which don't have them.
Cheap, longwave (UVA) blacklight lamps and flashlights - Not much better!
NOTE: There is one exception to this. The Convoy S2+, recently marketed from China, uses a Nichia high-power 365nm LED. With a filter installed, it outperforms any longwave portable light on the market today.
Longwave lights have their place in our hobby but the first time buyer must be aware that only a small percentage of fluorescent minerals will react to longwave (LW). The bright, multi-colored specimens you see in the Nature's Rainbows photo gallery almost always require a good SW light.
Worse - there are many different types of cheap LW lights. Some are simple LED flashlights which put out more visible light than UV. Others are ordinary, low power blacklights. The first time buyer will quickly tire of these lights, and any attempt at photography will simply result in a blue blob. $20 probably won't break the bank but these are not lights for serious collectors. For more about LED UV flashlights read this Glow Notes blog post about filtered and unfiltered lights.